Part 3: From Wheelchair user to Pre & Postnatal Pilates Specialist
So I was recovering well from my spinal surgery - able to finally stand up straight and walk normally. I was thrilled - and hugely relieved.
Below is me running a party for my daughter just 2 weeks after the surgery! I did need to lie down flat twice during the fun and games (a treasure hunt around Ruislip Lido which finished with the kids digging up a tupperware box from the beach filled with jewels! Enormous fun, highly recommend!) due to the incredible discomfort (but not pain) around the area of the surgery but apart from that ...
I could be fully involved with my children's lives again!
But issues did persist. My back still locked from time to time - though it would release within a day or two - and I had some numb patches on my back and a lot of numbness in my groin and, if I stood still for more than a few minutes, that numbness would spread down my right leg.
More physio did help a lot but the issues just wouldn't resolve.
STILL I didn't take up Pilates as has been recommended to me so many times!
However, perhaps another divine intervention? - I was struggling a little in my role as an NCT Antenatal Educator. It can be tricky to encourage couples in class to practice labour positions. You may have felt a little uncomfortable about this yourselves in your own classes?
I was finding myself reluctant to do much of this - but it is a very important part of the course. I had a word with my NCT Tutor and she invited me to come on to the Pregnancy Relax, Stretch & Breathe Training. It was really for people who wanted to teach Pregnancy Yoga but she felt it would do me good in terms of revitalising my passion and giving me new ways to bring the physicality of birth into classes.
I hadn't invested in myself for a long time by then and decided to jump right in! I was worried about being able to do the exercises myself - let alone teach them! - but the Tutors felt it would be fine as I would need to learn to adapt the exercises for clients with pelvic girdle pain or sciatic nerve issues and so on. So why not practice on me!
And?......I loved it!
After the very first training day I was hooked. I knew I had to teach this beautiful practice to pregnant women and spend the rest of my life carving out this special space for them to simply be.
My mental health really improved over the 6 months of intensive training - and so did my back. My lumbar spine had become very flat due to the long years of holding myself still because of the pain - but over that 6m it gradually became the curve it was meant to be. The numbness in my groin and going down my leg decreased and I could stand still for a little bit longer without issues. Best of all for me, by the end of the 6m I could do all the exercises that the pregnant women needed to do and my back felt more comfortable than I could ever remember it being.
I was hooked. And decided to explore Pilates too. I could have taken a few classes, but no...
I decided to qualify in Pilates too!
I had to train in 'Mat Pilates' before I could do the pre and postnatal qualification and I was shocked at the calibre of the other students. Dancers, Aerobics Instructors, Phsyios and Personal Trainers. My ability was far, far below their's and I found I could do very little of the exercises.
Pregnancy Yoga is very, very gentle. Mat Pilates was a bit different!
But again, the Tutors reassured me that I would need to adapt to clients with issues, so could practice with me. In fact - everyone practiced on me! Hilariously, in my advanced workshop, the only exercise I could do for most of the day was pelvic tilts as the exercises were so beyond my strength. One of my colleagues referred to me as 'disabled'. And it really hit home how severe my back injury had been and how low my core strength was.
But I persevered, keeping my eye on my goal:
my goal of serving my beloved Mamas and helping them not just in pregnancy but postnatally too now - to get strong
And as I qualified and began to teach Pilates alongside pregnancy yoga (and attend a class with a colleague in Ickenham). Miracles began to happen.
I began to be able to do the advanced moves AND I began to not notice my back
I can't tell you what a shock this was. I'd been aware of, protecting and concerned about my back for more than 20 years - I didn't really realise that I was doing this until I stopped doing it. I got on a bike with my kids and was able to ride it strongly with much better balance than ever before. The little roll of fat at the top of my belly disappeared - I didn't realise that this had been due to flared out ribs from pregnancy rather than my love of chips!
This is me holding the advanced position for the classic 100! Unthinkable to me during my 20y journey with my back.
I do still have some issues. I can walk 10 miles without an issue, but very slow walking or standing still for too long is my nemesis and does bring on the numbness in my groin and down my leg back. So much so that if you see me on a crowded tube train, I'll have a walking stick to lean on and my blue badge requesting a seat!
If the numbness in my groin results in me not being able to do a pelvic floor squeeze I have to turn up at A&E to be checked. It would be exceptionally rare but could indicate the nerves controlling bladder and bowel are starting to fail and immediate surgery is required.
Theme parks or Festivals still require my wheelchair, even now, as there are so few seats and too much slow walking or standing still. I feel such a fraud at these places using my wheelchair! But I also have no intention of ever ignoring my body or not doing what it needs to stay strong and well.
One fabulous day my daughter yelled that she could see some muscle defintion on my tummy - incredible! Though I assure you I do not have (or want!) any kind of 6 pack. Around this time I began to be able to do the Roll Up - it’s hard to demo in a pic but this is me rolling back up from flat. This would have been dangerous for me to do before I strengthened my core!
I'm in this to be strong. To love and nurture my body so I can be there on every level for myself, my own children and all the BellyTots Mamas.
Thank you so much for reading through to the end of my story! I would LOOOOVE to help you get strong and reach your breakthroughs too. If you'd like to find out about my
new VIP Postnatal Packages where I can work 1 to 1 with you in your own home do use the contact form to let me know and I'll send you details.
Or book on to one of the live, online classes (recordings sent to you afterwards if you can't attend at the time):